Our heroes are inside of the castle with the Empress, trapped inside a ragingly swirling moat, separated from the Greenwood elven force camped nearby.
The first order of business was for Nwalme to give the Empress a report on what’s been going on since the last time he’s been able to communicate with her via Telepathy.
- Nwalme wrested the Blue Wizard’s staff from him, nearly dying in process.
- Among the staff’s abilities is the Toss spell, which can throw human-sized creatures around. The Empress expresses an interest in learning this spell.
- A short way north of the castle, we discovered a group of hostile elves that he thinks are responsible for the strange behavior of the castle’s moat.
- The events surrounding the Battle of the Shore, and the ships that broke off and sailed westward just before that battle commenced.
- Intelligence we have gathered indicates that the hostile elven forces are amassing north of the castle, and that their leader and his lieutenant are also present there.
Once the debriefing was complete, the Empress formally inducted Bo into the Empress’ Guard. (Bo was more than happy to rub this fact into StrongWülf’s face.) Unfortunately, the Guard’s equipment stores and quartermasters are outside the castle with the bulk of her troops, so Bo cannot be issued standard equipment. Still, Bo was humbled and honored that the Empress knew of him and his exploits.
The Empress sends our heroes out to deal with the nearby elves who are controlling the moat.
With this clear mission, Araphor sent Stormdancer out to perform some new reconnaissance. The falcon’s sharp eyes quickly spot the enemy elves, despite them being mostly under tree cover. Their position affords them a line of sight to the castle, which appears to allow them to target the ritual magic that eight of them are performing. Eight more elves stand guard around them.
Beyond this encampment, Stormdancer also notices several scouting parties of elves, about 40 individuals in total, arranged in a rough arc through the foothills north of the castle.
Relaying this information to those inside the castle, the consensus is that these forces are in place to keep the Empress trapped at the castle. Unfortunately, there are only about 200 people within the fortress: garrison support, Empress’ retinue, counselors, and a handful of elven soldiers. Not the military forces needed to withstand a siege, even with the help of the elves encamped outside.
In the course of conversing further with the Empress, it becomes clear to Bo and other members of the group that there has been no communication from the runners that Guthwyn had sent. This does not bode well.
Bo was also worried about the Wizard’s staff being in the room where they’ve been talking about things that they don’t want overheard. But Nwalme had been keeping an eye on it to ensure that it hasn’t been glowing to indicate that a spell was in play.
Tired from traveling all night, our heroes get a few hours’ sleep.
When they wake up a bit more rested, if not totally recovered, the Empress looks grim. Her experiments have shown that Sauron was not completely destroyed at the end of the War of the Ring, as everyone had thought. What remains of him may be little more than a shadow — far less powerful magically, but still with all of his knowledge and experience.
Araphor doesn’t like this; he’s worried that this might mean that in his inchoate form he may now be able to possess others. The group suspects that he might be unable to amass much power, though, since he needs to keep his Nazgul powered and obedient. The Empress weighs in, saying that she felt that the essence of the being that is disrupting the communication between herself and Nwalme felt somehow subservient.
With this, Araphor recalls that the far East was where the elves first awoke. Among these hostile dark elves, therefore, there could well be ancient, powerful elves who were among the first – some 15,000 years old.
[StrongWülf peed himself in terror as this was explained to him.]
The Empress felt that Araphor’s theory is close and that she wants to work with Nwalme to get the party into the hostile elves’ midst to better find out what they can about the enemy’s plan. And that in the mean time, she needs to escape to join the bulk of her forces, rather than await the arrival of the enemy while she’s trapped here.
Unfortunately, the usual escape route from the castle — the sally port — is largely collapsed and muddy due to the wild moat. Few could make their way out that way.
So the party decides to stage a diversion, so that the Empress can escape to the main encampment to the southeast. The idea is to get teleported in to where the nearby magic ritual is being performed.
Everyone gets into a circle and readies themselves. Araphor uses Icy Weapon to frost his blade, and dons the Ring of Haste to speed up. Nwalme tries his best to explain what it is going to feel like, so that everyone will be better able to avoid disorientation and be able to react quickly.
The teleport was successful. Most of the party made their body sense rolls and weren’t stunned. They could react quickly. With the party prepared, the Empress and her mages wink the party over to the nearby forest.
Bo, Araphor and StrongWülf manage to keep their wits as they pop into the clearing, and were able to attack from surprise with devastating consequences. Guthwyn and Nwalme took a second, but joined in with a will. Everyone lays out an elf or two, blade and arrows singing through the air as Nwalme Tosses a few of them about. Araphor charges into the circle’s center, pressing forward to attack the mages.
This draws the mages’ fire, and they throw spell after spell at him: Water Jet and Ice Dagger.
[…to be continued]